Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector of England for much of the 1650s, ruling in place of the country's traditional monarchy. In the 1640s a civil war broke out between supporters of King Charles I (the Royalists) and of Parliament (the so-called Roundheads). Cromwell was a Roundhead military leader in a long series of civil war battles, which ended with Charles I imprisoned and finally beheaded in 1649. By 1653, Parliamentary squabbling led Cromwell to take control as head of state, in essence overseeing a military dictatorship. He eventually gained the king-like title of Lord Protector of the Realm, and presided over a troubled era of internal unrest and costly foreign wars. (Opinions vary on whether Cromwell was a well-meaning hero or a not-so-heroic type who set himself up as a near-king.) Cromwell died of natural causes in 1658 and was succeeded by his son, Richard Cromwell. Richard was forced from power less than a year later, and Charles II took the throne, returning the short-lived commonwealth to a monarchy.
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